MSc in Environmental Design of Buildings: Distance learning option

The Distance Learning version of the course requires access to Learning Central, Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), to deliver the latest course information and allow students to communicate with tutors.  It follows that students have to be set up with appropriate computer hardware, peripherals, web connections, and software.  Unlike local students, who are able to fall back on University equipment if theirs proves inadequate, you are completely reliant on your own equipment.  You should also note that you will be required to have access to a second computer (laptop or desktop) during Class tests, in case technical problems arise during the two hours of the examination.


If you are buying new, then you should follow the University's specification for its own computers. This can be found on

If, as is more likely, you are expecting to use equipment that you already own, then you should be sure that it can cope with recent software releases and network connection speeds, bearing in mind that there are aspects of the course that ask you to use advanced building performance simulation software. 

The following is the minimum standard that you will require to take part in the course:  

  • A Quad-Core processor greater than 2GHz, as this will allow you to work on multiple large files simultaneously
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 300GB disk space
  • high performance graphics card
  • 1,024 x 768 high-colour (16-bit) display
  • CD/DVD writer
  • two free 2.0 USB ports
  • Sound card, microphone & headphones
  • USB web camera
  • Colour flat-bed scanner
  • Broadband connection to an ISP Software
  • In addition you should have a separate USB hard drive of 300GB or more on which to do backups. 

The software used in the course is 32bit and generally requires Microsoft Windows. The University’s computers run on Windows 7 Enterprise.  The following is the software that you should have to be able to undertake the course. Equivalent software from other manufacturers is acceptable. The essential requirement for graphic software is to enable students to communicate with tutors by sketching, to prepare drawings for coursework, and to lay out and submit presentations to A2 size in PDF format. The drawing package recommended below should do all this.

Any other course-specific analysis software will be provided as required.

Minimum Preferred
Windows XP service pack 3

Windows 7

Internet browser two free USB 2.0 ports
E-mail connection  
Zip compatible compression software WinZip 7.0
Word-processing and spreadsheet software Microsoft Word and Excel
PDF reading capability Adobe Acrobat
Drawing software with PDF writing capability Corel Draw Essentials (or better)
Autodesk Ecotect Analysis software  

It may sometimes be possible to use an operating system other than MS Windows, such as MacOS or Linux. In using a non-Windows PC students must accept responsibility for developing any new skills needed, and we cannot guarantee that students will be able to access any software and data files supplied with the course material.  If they use a Windows emulator they must be sure they have enough memory to run the course software as well.

Distance students must have general competence in the operation and use of a computer and its internet connection.  It will be assumed that students are able to install and manage new software, utilise desktop publishing, word processing and spreadsheet software.  If students are not completely comfortable with the use of computers, it may still be possible to complete the course but students may find their progress slow and frustrating.  The technical help offered will be limited, so students should also make sure that they have some other form of support in case they run into difficulties.